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Resurrection Revealed, Even Here

Their last moments with their closest friend, Jesus, came unexpectedly while they were going about their business fishing. Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the beloved disciple, and brothers James and John were out fishing in the aftermath of Jesus’s three day death and Sunday morning resurrection appearances. What a whirlwind, and now the guys are out fishing. With no luck, they prepare for the end of an uneventful fishing trip. But as the sun breaks through the sky, from the shore a voice calls, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” (NLT, 21:5). They respond to the stranger calling out, that disappointingly they have caught no fish. In reply the stranger calls back, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” (21:6). Desperate for another option, the men throw their net and to their surprise, the net is so full it’s a wonder the net didn’t break! (6, 11).

Miraculous, unexpected provision… “It is the Lord!” says the beloved disciple to Peter. This stranger calling out, it was their resurrected Lord and friend, appearing to them a third time after his resurrection. Peter throws on his clothes, jumps out of the boat, and swims excitedly to the Lord on the shore. The other disciples haul in the wondrously full, still in tact net; all to find breakfast prepared on the shore by their Lord.

This story is often told to emphasize how the disciples went back to their first love, fishing at sea, even after the Lord’s resurrection. The story is also often told to give context for Jesus’s three heart-probing questions to Peter beginning in verse 15. However, this week, in light of the earthly loss of dear people in our lives, the movements of scripture point to something bigger than context, or a lesson about hobbies. The story’s introduction is that “after this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way”(21:1). Jesus is in the business of revealing himself to his closest friends who have had a whirlwind of a week. Even in light of the resurrection, Jesus knows the hearts of his friends–they need Jesus to reveal himself.

Before the net became overflowing with fish after a catchless night, the disciples thought the man on the shore was a stranger. They didn’t know it was the Lord. However, in the moment of provision in a time of need, the beloved disciple sees. One of Jesus’ marking characteristics is that he reveals himself through provision. For the disciples the provision was a net full of fish, that didn’t even break. For us these past few weeks–which feels very much like a dark, catchless night– where are we our admitting needs? Are we willing to hear the call of the Lord in the middle of our sleepless nights? When it seems like nothing is helping us through difficult times, are we willing to cast our nets on the other side of our boats in obedience? Are we going to keep showing up? For the disciples we are not told why they listened to the call from the stranger on shore, but we know that when they followed the voice and saw the provision, their eyes opened and the knew it was their resurrected friend and Lord.

Instead of calling back, squinting to double check, or shrugging off his friend’s proclamation, Peter jumped into the water, clothes and all,  and swam to shore. Peter abandoned his tasks to be with Jesus as fast as he could. In times of difficulty, when we slow down and pay attention to the Spirit, we recognize God’s presence and provision.  We don’t call this provision a coincidence, or good luck, but we proclaim that this is the Lord showing up for us in a time of need. When the Lord shows up in your life, are you swimming as fast as you can to meet him? When you run to Jesus, he is there revealed as the Savior, Giver of abundance.

Breakfast is waiting on the shore for you. Even after a night of no sleep or productivity, when the abundance you have is from nothing you did, Jesus says, “Come and have breakfast.” Jesus calls his disciples into communion with him. John adds that “none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord”(12). This time around the fire was a time of sweet communing together. When Jesus calls and we answer, we say yes to time enjoying his presence.

What happens in that fellowship with Jesus? How does Jesus desire to reveal himself after a season of growing tiredness, uncertainty, and grief? When we take the time to recognize and respond to Christ’s presence, we affirm the revelation of Jesus as the resurrected Son of God–this leads to deep, nourishing communion with Him. John concludes the story just how he began: “This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead”(14). The call from the shore, the provision, the revelation, the swim, the breakfast prepared, the communing–all of this was to reveal the risen Savior as victor over death.

Friends, no matter where you find yourself today, you are living in the light of the resurrection. Keep leaning into the Lord, responding to His call from the shore, and take the time to share His presence with other brothers and sisters in Christ. As Eugene Peterson paraphrases the good news in Hebrews 10:19-25:

“So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into ‘the Holy Place.’ Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.

So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.”

Be refreshed by the resurrection presence of the Lord who loves you dearly, hold him close because he is holding you. Grace and peace from the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

Mary Katherine Wildeman, New City Stories Contributor

Murky Waters: Seeking His Face in Discernment


You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
   “Your face, Lord, do I seek.” – Psalm 27:8 ESV

Many of us know the parable of the drowning man. It is not one of Jesus’ parables, but it is one that is frequently mentioned in Christian circles. If you haven’t heard this parable before, here it is:


This is the story of a drowning man.
As the man is drowning, he has no fear. Why? Well, this drowning man is very religious.
“God will save me!” he says.
A man in a canoe comes by and offers the drowning man a life jacket. He says, “No thanks. God will save me!”
Then, a helicopter comes overhead. The crew throws a ladder down to help save the drowning man, but again the man says, “No thanks. God will save me!”
Finally, a person swims out to the drowning man to save him and the man says, “Climb on my back. I will swim you to shore.”
Of course, the drowning man still refuses and says, “No thanks. God will save me!” And so, the man that had come to save the drowning man returned to shore.
Sadly, the drowning man did drown. He went to heaven where he sees God.  He says to God, “I prayed every day and was a very religious man.
I did everything the prayer books told me to do, so I have to ask you, why did you let me drown?”
Then God replied, “I sent a canoe, a helicopter and a man to bring you to shore and you refused their help!”

https://www.brandonsteiner.com/blogs/what-else/the-story-of-a-drowning-man

Nice little parable, right? I do think there is some truth to it. Oftentimes, when we are so preoccupied with with our own version of God and what He ought to do for us that we can miss His promptings and invitations.

However, there is, in my mind, a major problem with this parable–it doesn’t take into account the murkiness that is discernment. Sometimes in our life when we feel that we are “drowning” and we need to make a big decision or else we “miss the boat,” it is difficult to discern whether or not there is a boat in front of us at all. Or, sometimes there might be multiple vessels offering to pull us out of the water but we cannot decide which is the rescue boat and which is the pirate ship.

Nautical metaphors aside, there are just simply times in our life when we feel the weight of large, looming decisions and it seems impossible to discern the next right step. It might seem that there is no clear path forward and making a decision seems like a total shot-in-the-dark. It could be that there are a few options in front of us, but none of them align with what we have envisioned for ourselves. Or, it may be that there are many good opportunities we have to choose from, and it seems impossible to distinguish which opportunity is the best one. Finally, it may simply be that we have trouble hearing God’s still-small voice in this season and cannot discern what His will is in this moment.

Whatever unique situation we find ourselves in, the process of discernment is often overwhelming and much unlike what the parable describes above. Many of us feeling burdened by a looming decision desperately wish for someone to “swim” out to us and pull us to shore. The fact is that these liminal times–the transitional, “in-between” spaces where things seem so unclear and so pressing–make up much of our lives. So, how are we do navigate them? How do we stay afloat in these waters?

Simply put: we have to seek God over and above His plan for our lives. It is precisely in these periods of intense discernment that we desperately desire for God to send a rescue boat (or maybe a cruise ship) to take us to the destination He has for us. We want God to illuminate our path so that we can run towards the work He has for us. The problem with is, when our hearts are set on the “boat” or the “path,” we tend to forget God Himself. God knows that our ultimate destination is not a place, not a title, not a reputation, but Himself. Because God fashioned us, he knows that our ultimate joy and contentment is found in communion with His triune life. Much like Peter, when we focus on being saved from the waves instead of gazing upon the very face of God, we begin to sink faster.

As we do our best to navigate these waters, the various crossroads of our lives, we must remember to look up before we look forward. We must remember the words of Jesus himself, the one who has not only walked this same journey perfectly, but who has sent His Spirit to guide us along the way:  “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33 ESV).

I leave you with two prayers. The first is written by Thomas Merton and the second is my own prayer that I wrote in a season of difficult discernment. My hope is that they encourage you as you yourself discern God’s will and “seek His face” in this season.


My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going
I do not see the road ahead of me
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you
and I hope I have that desire in all I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me on the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore, will I trust you always.
Though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death,
I will not fear, for you are ever with me
and you will never leave me to face my struggles alone. Amen.
(Thomas Merton)



Lord, it is good to ask you to light up our path

but it is better to ask you to illumine our hearts.

Let me not be dragged about by concerns for the future

but ground me with your grace so that I might desire your presence.

We cannot walk this road without your guiding hand

and we cannot hold your hand if we are anxiously hurrying along.

Give me the desire of all desires, the desire to seek your face.

All of my ambition and all of my uncertainties are consumed by the beauty of your presence.

The road does not seem so unsure when I am looking up.

Lift up my gaze to you, Lord. Amen.

Mike Terry, New City Stories Contributor

Risk: The Faithful Response to Our Rescue

At New City we talk a lot about being thankful for our rescue. Even outside of a Christian context, the word “rescue” has implications of risking, preventing, saving, or going out of one’s way for someone else. To rescue is “to free from confinement, danger, or evil” as defined by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. The Israelites experienced this rescue physically and spiritually when God freed them from slavery in Egypt and then gave them the Ten Commandments. In this rescue, God brought his people out of bondage and then began creating them into a new people. He led His grumbling people the long way, with a reluctant leader, but God knew the risk would pay off.

When we think about our personal rescue stories, it can be easy to forget that our rescue came with a cost.

And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.” (Matt 27:30, 31).

No matter if your rescue story comes from growing up in church, or coming to faith in a desperate place, this was the cost for all believers.  God risked to rescue us and continues to risk by pursuing His children. This is why risk is a core value at New City–it is a core part of our story.

Not only did God risk to rescue us, but we are called to risk for others. We read in scripture that, “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Risk stems from love. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, so that those who believe might have life, life everlasting.” (John 3:16). Risking is not about making your schedule more full to check the “love your neighbors box.” Risk involves seeing God’s heart for your neighbors, for people in need, for people who do not look like you, and taking on that heart of love yourself. When you start to see people how God sees them, your schedule, reputation, and comfortability dwindle and finding a way to help others becomes more important.

In Acts 10 Peter has the vision of a sheet with unclean animals coming down and repeatedly hears, “do not call what is clean unclean.” Peter’s first reaction was confusion and rejection because his understanding of what he could eat had been set for years. However, God uses this vision to lead Peter into a risky call; namely, to invite outsiders into God’s story. Through visions and the Spirit’s leading, God gives Peter not only an image of the coming risk, but a person.

The Spirit led Cornelius, a God-fearing Roman soldier, to call for Peter to hear about this vision. This is bold for Cornelius to do because of his position in the Roman army and because of the fact that Peter was a Jew. After a vision warning Peter that Cornelius will call for him to come, Peter cannot help but notice the Spirit’s working. When Peter sees God undoubtedly at work, the risk becomes less of a fearful experience, and more of a faithful call. “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean” (Acts 10:28). After this encounter between Peter and Cornelius, Peter preached the Good News to Gentiles and they received the Holy Spirit. Peter and Cornelius both listened to God, stepped out in faith and took risks, which in turn resulted in the salvation of many.

The Gentiles were not Jewish, which means they were not considered in the family of God’s people. For most of us, this means Peter and Cornelius are a part of our rescue story. This week reflect on your rescue story or on seasons when you ran from God. What did God bring into your life to bring you back to Him? How can you be that person for others this week? Pray for the person after you in line, start up a conversation with someone who doesn’t look like you, be the first to apologize in an argument, pray for opportunities to risk for God. Risking is what Jesus calls us to when he says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24). Risk is not just a core value of a church; it is the call of following Christ.

Reflection Questions:

  • What resource(s) to you have excess of (food, money, time, clothes, etc.) and how can you give it away to people in need?
  • What keeps you from stepping out of your comfort zone to help, to encourage, or to share your faith with others?
  • Read Luke 18:18-30 and reflect on where you see risk in this passage.

 

Mary Katherine Wildeman,  New City Stories Contributor